The Innovation Center at Rogers State University has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to establish the University Center, a program that provides entrepreneurial training, community development and economic assistance to rural communities.
The three-year grant of $338,550 was announced recently by U.S. Congressman Dan Boren.
The University Center will focus on launching an Entrepreneurial Ready Community Development program to create a corridor of certified entrepreneurial-ready communities that will provide support services to small businesses and local entrepreneurs who need business assistance to become sustainable, successful job-creating entities, said Dr. Ray Brown, RSU vice president for economic and community development.
“An Entrepreneur-Ready Community provides the resources and assistance needed for emerging businesses to be successful. We deeply appreciate Congressman Boren’s support for the RSU University Center Grant and his efforts to promote economic development in our region,” Brown said.
The Innovation Center will expand its core services which currently include technical assistance to small businesses, research for communities and businesses, workshops for small businesses and a technology business incubator to encourage development of successful entrepreneurs, Brown said.
The EDA’s University Center Program is a competitively-based partnership between EDA and academic institutions that makes the resources of universities available to the economic development practitioner community.
The RSU University Center will support the EDA’s mission to, “create wealth and minimize poverty by promoting a favorable business environment to attract private capital investment and higher-skill, higher-wage jobs through capacity-building, planning, infrastructure, research grants and strategic initiatives,” Brown said.
The RSU University Center will focus primarily on distressed rural communities with populations of less than 20,000. The participating communities will form the regional entrepreneurial corridor which links entrepreneurs with services and resources. Rural communities often lack many elements essential for supporting the growth of new and emerging businesses, Brown said.
In order to meet the needs of the communities, the RSU University Center will collaborate with existing partners in northeast Oklahoma to provide a comprehensive small business support system.
Partners include the communities themselves, Northeast Technology Center, the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing, the Cherokee Nation, and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
The Center will utilize best practices from economic gardening to strengthen entrepreneurial efforts in northeast Oklahoma. The economic development activities will focus on increasing the competitive capabilities of local business owners, especially those with specialized skills and high potential goods and services.
The Center’s professional staff will work directly with the communities applying for the Entrepreneur Ready Community Certification. Specifically, the staff will promote the certification program to communities, assist communities in completing a community assessment matrix, conduct strategic planning sessions to assist communities in developing an action plan, facilitate study of local entrepreneurs, help develop a network of resource providers, and conduct program orientation workshops.
For more information, contact the RSU Innovation Center at (918) 343-7533.